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Archive for February, 2012

This was the scene in the Fall of 2010. When we moved here in 1992, I built a loft in the back of our two-story garage for storage. The floor area is approximately 23 feet by 10 feet. In the top of this photo, the board for my Christmas layout is stored, suspended on pulley-lines from the ceiling. I currently have a large tarp attached to the beam at the front of the loft, which allows me to isolate the area under the loft as a somewhat climate-controlled workshop. This tarp will be rigged like a theatrical roll-drop in the first phase of the loft re-modeling, so we can park our cars in the winter. A short wall will be built above this to connect the edge of the loft beam to the garage ceiling, thereby enclosing the loft space for heating and air conditioning purposes.
Model railroads must be kept at a relatively constant temperature and humidity to prevent track expansion or contraction. When I started, the only access to the loft was from a stairway that I had put in along the east wall when I built the loft. This will remain, but a more convenient door from the inside of the house will be added. This stairway will then become an emergency escape stair, with a door at the top of it. As you can see here, looking at the east wall, we will have a lot of insulation and wall-board work to convert the garage to a comfortable four season environment.
This photo shows the (2010) state of the loft area…..lots of storage, but not much else. As we work to insulate and wall-board the walls in the lower part of the garage, we will be putting in shelves on those new walls to accommodate the parts of this storage that we want to save.
The ceiling in the loft slopes from about eight feet at the back to about four and a half feet at the front. My head hits ceiling at appx. 42″ from the lower wall. My working reach over benchwork is appx. 24″. Sitting in a rolling office chair, at its lowest setting, I would would clear the center “roll-under” section of the track plan at 45″.
Now fast-forward to February of 2012. At this point the hip wall is finished, with an escape door (visible in the distant center of the picture). The insulation is done, and the floor has been covered with 1/8″ tempered masonite, which makes an easy surface to clean, and will work well for the future “roll-under”. There is sound padding under the masonite, which softens the walking surface, and also helps a little with insulation. There will eventually be two layers of R-19 insulation under this floor, as well as a wall-board ceiling. The doorway into the bedroom has been cut and framed, and the door installed, and the electrician is due out in a week or so to start the circuiting and lighting work (see article on Lighting). Looking to the East end of the room, my 4′ x 8′ test, display and photography board is on the left, and my small project work space is on the right.
This is the view looking South, through the new doorway, into the master bedroom. My work area is on the left.
This view looks East. I currently have it covered with a piece of insulation, but there is an exhaust fan in the East wall, to the left of the clock, which is an antique clock from my father’s collection. The “Regulator” brand clock was used in many railroad stations, and I hope to rig this one as a fast clock for operating sessions.
This is the view into the layout loft when the new door in the bedroom is open. When it is closed, it blends nicely with the other woodwork in the room.
One of the biggest surprises I got when we opened the wall to the bedroom was that there was a 23″ floor height differential! Years ago when the loft was built as a storage area, the only concern was to make the ceiling under the loft floor high enough for my garage work bench. I hunted around, and came up with this folding set of steel steps that are made for camper trailers. The height was perfect, and with a couple of grab-irons inside the door, the feel of the entrance is very “railroady”.
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The bridge at Tefft, Colorado, on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  This bridge, spanning the Animas River in Cascade Canyon, was built in 1887.  The D&RGW used a number of different styles of bridges on its narrow gauge lines.  The style of bridge was determined by the terrain and size of the crossing, and the load the working bridge had to support. 
I knew I wanted to make a model of this bridge for my railroad, and while I was visiting a train show in Madison, Wisconsin, for the Minnesota Transportation Museum, I found an old Lionel O-scale Plasticville bridge for sale that was very close in size and shape to the Tefft Bridge.
The first modification I made was to add more I-beam support across the bottom of the bridge. These are styrene I-beams from Plastruct.
Here’s the bridge with three new I-beams added to the original two.
I wanted to use plate girders to support my tracks, but I had to keep the track low enough that my locomotives would clear the bridge structure. Since plate girders come in all sorts of sizes, I was able to use those that came with N-scale models.
I clamped the little bridges in my small hobby bench vise, and cut the plate girders away from the N-scale track. I used a total of five of these bridges to span my Tefft Bridge.
Next I put I-beam supports longitudinally through the bridge to correspond to the areas that would be directly under my rails.
I connected the plate girder sides to each other with a zig-zag pattern of styrene pieces.
Then I mounted the bridge ties and guard rails on top of the plate girders. Bridge ties are heavier than regular ties because they have no ballast and sub-roadbed to support them. They are also placed closer together. I won’t lay track on this bridge until I am ready to place it into the layout.
On the bridge itself, I put wooden walkways to help fill the open space over the I-beams.
Here are the plate girders, under the bridge ties, with a little weathering.
I purchased a set of bridge builder’s plates. They didn’t have 1887, so I used the pair from 1881, because that was the date of much of the construction of the D&RGW line from Durango to Silverton.

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These crates could be used in any scale. Compare size to the quarter above.

Here’s a simple little project that produces some nice looking shipping crates for your railroad.  I wish I could take credit for coming up with the idea, but I can’t.  I read about it in one of my train magazines.  The first step is to go to a craft store, like Michaels’s, and purchase a small bag of mixed sized wooden squares.  For just a few dollars, you can get enough blocks to make as many crates as you will ever need.  I then stained them with my leather dye/alcohol stains in three different colors.

I also glued some of them together to make rectangular combinations.  Not all shipping crates are square.  In a moment you’ll see how I hid the seams.  Taking a steel straight-edge and a pencil, I then marked separations on four sides to represent individual boards in the crate.  The two ends of the cubes which showed the wood grain were covered with individually cut pieces of strip wood.  From a distance it’s hard to tell the 3-D boards from the penciled ones.

I’m not left handed, but for the purposes of photography, it’s easier to suggest the pencil work with my left hand, and shoot the picture with my right.  The next step is to build the exterior framing of the crate, with stripwood stained in colors to match the little cubes.

The crate can be framed just on the corners, or cross-braced diagonally.  I have even seen crates with “X” bracing, so I think I’ll make some of those, too.  I use this framing to hide the seam between blocks glued together.  See the last photo.  You can leave one side of the cube unframed, or do all six sides, but I learned long ago that actors and stage personnel cannot always be trusted to set things down the correct way.  I’m framing all six sides.  When the framing is all completed, I take a sharp #2 pencil, and twirl it into the wood to create the look of nail heads.

The last step is to take some photo-reduced shipping labels, and glue them on the sides of the crates.

And there you have it.  Nifty little crates to travel on flatcars, in boxcars and combines, or to sit on freight depot platforms.

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In another post I laid out plans for an inexpensive method of building large numbers of flat cars. My intention was always that most of these cars would become some sort of specialty car or carry some specific kind of load for my railroad. I have recently finished construction on two of these specialty cars. One is a wooden gondola for delivering drilling mud in barrels to the San Juan Oil Company drilling site.
According to Wikipedia drilling mud is: “Often used while drilling oil and natural gas wells and on exploration drilling rigs, drilling fluids are also used for much simpler boreholes, such as water wells. Liquid drilling fluid is often called drilling mud. The main functions of drilling fluids include providing hydrostatic pressure to prevent formation fluids from entering into the well bore, keeping the drill bit cool and clean during drilling, carrying out drill cuttings, and suspending the drill cuttings while drilling is paused and when the drilling assembly is brought in and out of the hole.” My San Juan Oil Company drill site will need some of this stuff, and I envision it being shipped in wooden barrels, at the time I am modeling. At a recent swap meet, I picked up a number of barrels for a real bargain price. Here they are on an un-altered “cheap flat car”.
The Northwest Short Line “Chopper” is a handy tool for cutting multiple lengths of strip-wood to the same size. Here I am making the side stakes which will support the walls of the gondola I am creating.
And here is the car with the side stakes in place, and the gondola walls started.
This photo shows several of the Grandt Line Products castings I used on the flat car…..side stake pockets, stirrup steps, brake wheel and NBW castings on the end sill.
Here the sides are done, and the barrels set in for testing. You can also see the (cheap) method I am using for creating metal corner plates where special reinforcement might be used. The black corners are made from clear plastic from packaging with bolt heads pressed in from behind with the tip of a file.
Close up of corner plates on end of car.
The model is finished with NBW castings inserted into each joint between the side stakes and the gondola side boards, and some colored chalk weathering.
The barrels have had their bright silver bands toned down a little, too.
One of my side stakes split at the top, and didn’t have enough width to drill a hole for the NBW casting, so I fixed it the way a narrow gauge railroad would…..by improvising a metal (plastic) sleeve to hold the top of the stake to the car. Little touches like this give the car character and personality.

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Another commission, this time for a client on the East coast, was to make a San Francisco style cable car in N-scale.
Since Bachmann makes an N-scale trolley that has a lot of features similar to cable cars, I decided to start with one of these, and work through modification.   A trolley is operated by drawing electricity through overhead poles.  A cable car has no motor, but is propelled by gripping a cable which runs below the street.
Most of the interior of the Bachmann model is taken up by the motor, which is enclosed in two large weights. Since I wanted to detail the interior, and the client was satisfied with a static model, the entire interior of the Bachmann trolley was set aside.
Then I removed the trolley poles from the roof, opened up three of the side panels on each end, and cut away the trolley doorways. Eventually I wound up opening four side panels, and shortening the overall length of the car by eliminating the space for the doorways entirely. This works fine with a cable car, because most riders hop on directly from the sides, anyway.

I built a new floor out of styrene to hold the trucks (wheels), and support the interior details.

The doorway sections on each end will be removed, making the car almost a half an inch shorter.
You’ll notice that the side of the car now features four open panels on each end, and a three-window section in the middle. I made small wooden benches for the interior out of scribed basswood.
Since this center section would be enclosed, I had to add interior walls at each end of it. On a cable car, the interior benches face inward toward each other, and the exterior benches face out toward the sides of the street. You can also see how eliminating the original doorways allowed me to bring the ends inward and shorten the car.
It isn’t easy to see on the finished car, but I made control levers at each end of the car from the trolley poles I cut away from the original roof. There is even a little driver figure inside pulling the levers. My client was a photographer, so one of the riders I found for the car is taking a photograph.
There are about seven or eight people on the car, including one lady hanging on to the hand rails on the side, and another fellow sitting in the central enclosed area. Getting him in there felt like building a ship in a bottle!
The little sign on the front of the car was made by reducing a decal that came with an O-scale cable car model I bought until it fit the N-scale area.  I suggested white paint on the trim around the windows by lightly sanding the raised areas with an emery board.  I would never have been able to paint such a thin line.  The O-scale model I am making will be the subject of another post.

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2.  Inverted Box Girder Bridge.

This is known as the High Line Bridge on the D&SNGRR.  I don’t know if it’s the correct terminology, but I refer to bridges like this as inverted box girder, because the box girder support system is below the tracks.  A standard box girder bridge is one where the train travels through (not over) the girder support system.  After collecting numerous photos of this bridge, I found one of the wooden bridge that it replaced (below), so I’ll probably do the wooden version.

9.  Sand House.

This is the sand house, as it still exists, at Chama, New Mexico.  I will be modeling this facility in at least one of my two yards.   Steam locomotives carried sand in a dome on top of the boiler.  When the driving wheels needed extra traction, the sand was fed through small tubes down to just in front of the driving wheels, and released on to the rail heads.  Diesel-electric locomotives still use this method of getting traction on slippery rails.

10.  Ash Pit.

Coal burning steam locomotives produce ash in their fireboxes, and this needs to be emptied.  If the fire in an engine was left burning overnight (banked), so that the engine would be ready to go in the morning, one of the first tasks of the hostler was to pull the locomotive over the ash pit and rake out the grate at the bottom of the firebox.  Cleaning this was necessary to provide proper ventilation for the fire.  Wood burning locomotives did not generate as much ash as coal burners, and what did occur either went out the stack or down on to the tracks.  Is it any wonder that wood burners often caused fires along the right of way!  Ash pits were located near the engine storage facilities in yards.  Some of the coal would form “clinkers” as it burned, and these would be used to ballast the yard tracks (see right area of photo).

10B.  Coaling Tower

This is the sand house and coaling tower complex at Chama.  These two facilities were often located near each other in the engine servicing area of railroad yards.  The coal tower at Chama has been “modeled to death”, and exists on just about everyone’s layouts, no matter where they are set.  Having said that, it is a beautiful structure, and the D&RGW built others that were similar at a number of its towns.  Before it was torn down in the late 1960s, there was an identical one to this at Durango.

I will probably use the method shown above for delivering coal to the tower.  A drop-bottom gondola full of coal is set out over a grid on a slightly raised section of track.  The coal goes down through the track, and is collected by the coaling tower elevator bucket.  The bucket carries it up to the top of the tower, where it is released into storage bins to be gravity fed to the locomotive tenders.

12.   Small Engine House (Silverton).

I will probably scratch-build some version of this type of engine house for Silverton, because space up there is very limited.

13.  Single Stall Engine House (Lumber Camp).

I think something like this would look good in the lumber camp.  The open side provides a nice look into the interior of the shop.

15.  Small Temporary Bridge at Lumber Camp.

Since track in the cutting areas of lumber camps only needed to remain in place as long as it took to remove the trees, it was constructed as simply and quickly as possible, as this little temporary bridge demonstrates.  I’ll use something like this in one area of my lumber camp.

16.  Lumber Camp Workers’ Quarters.

Lumber workers lived and ate right in the camps.  Often the structures were built small enough to be moved on rail cars to new locations.

19.  Animas River.

The Animas River Gorge is the most beautiful part of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge RR.  My central “roll-under” will attempt to recreate some of this gorgeous right of way.

20.  Snowy Area.

In the mountains, particularly at higher elevations, snowfalls can occur into the late spring or come early in the fall.  I have so many trees left over from the Christmas Train layout that have snow on them.  The snow can’t be removed, and it seems a shame to throw them out, so the only solution is to incorporate a little bit of a snowy area on my new layout, so there will be one little corner, high above the lumber camp, where trains will travel through a winter wonderland like the one pictured in this early fall snow scene here.

22.  Yard Tracks.

Railroad yards were areas where freight and passenger cars were assembled into trains, and locomotives could be stored and serviced.  They were almost always fairly flat, and quite often had darker track ballast because the clinkers from the ash pits were a handy substance.  Sometimes, especially on narrow gauge lines, there were areas where grass and weeds grew up between the rails.  My layout will have two yards, one at Durango, and one at Silverton.  Yards are an integral part of model railroads built to operate with a purpose.  This is a photo of the actual yard at Durango.

27.  Tunnel Portals.

Tunneling was the technique of last resort for railroads because of the time and labor involved.  Railroads preferred to run their trains as near to level ground as possible.  In mountainous terrain, that often meant using small cuts and fills, or trestles and bridges if there was water involved.  Culverts under the tracks and through the fill also served to keep the tracks and ballast dry.  Most tunnels had to have tunnel portals and tunnel liners to keep falling rocks off the tracks, but in areas where the rock surrounding the tunnel bore was hard and stable enough, no tunnel portal at all was necessary, like the one pictured above.  This is on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, and is appropriately called “Rock Tunnel”.

This is a typical wooden tunnel portal, designed to keep the mouth of the tunnel open, and falling rocks from the surrounding mountain at bay.

29.  Water Tower.

The D&RGW had distinctive water towers with slightly tapered sides.  The rooves were sometimes round, and sometimes octagonal.

29B.  Lumber Camp Water Tank.

30.  Low Water Crossing.

Just outside of Silverton, the D&SNGRR crosses a shallow section of the Animas River.  This crossing is effected on a series of very low trestle bents, and short pylons consisting of rock enclosed in wooden boxes made from railroad tie sized timbers.  In the area to the right in Plan Section 3, which I may wind up calling Cascade Canyon, there are three rail crossings of the Animas River, each lower than the one behind it.  This would be the nature of the lowest crossing.

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1.  Curved steel trestle (#4 not used)

Curved steel trestles like this one which suggests the famous Georgetown Loop were used to replace wooden trestles in the late 1800s.  They were often composed of varying sections, as this one is.  Here we see a combination of plate girder and truss construction supported on steel piers.

5.  Small Howe truss bridges

This is very similar to the Hermosa Creek bridge on the Durango & Silverton.  I have built a model of this bridge.  See post on same in list.

6.  King Post (top) and Queen Post (bottom) truss bridges

I have built two identical Queen Post Truss bridges from one balsa wood kit from Australia.  See post for miscellaneous bridges.

7.  Wood Trestle bridge

What narrow gauge (or standard gauge western railroad for that matter) would be complete without one of these beautifully crafted wood trestle bridges.  They were used in the early days of western railroading, because wood was plentiful, construction techniques were sound, and they were relatively quick to build.  They came in all sizes depending on the area that needed to be crossed.

14.  The High Line Curve

This section of the route between Durango and Silverton is famous for its beautiful scenery, incredible engineering feat in construction, and considerable cost to put together.  With the line located 400 vertical feet above the Animas River, workers were lowered over the top of the hill on lines to blast and dig a narrow shelf for the railroad.  The cost of this effort, in 1882, was over $1,000. a foot.  When prices for new locomotives averaged only $4,500. each, the D&RGW could have bought a new engine for every four and one-half feet of track they laid here.  This scenic highlight will be featured on the “roll-under” section in the middle of my layout.

Silverton, Colorado

Silverton, Colorado,  is a small town high in the San Juan mountains (just over 9300 feet) that started its existence in 1860 with Charles Baker’s discovery of gold in the area. However, it wasn’t until the 1873 treaty with the local Native American tribe, the Utes, that the area was opened to settlement. Even then, being in the high mountains without any easy route to market, large-scale mining wasn’t practical. However, a wagon road in opened in 1879 provided some access, and prospectors quickly realized the potential held by the area – not in the gold originally sought by Baker, but primarily in silver, hence the town’s name.  I’ll only have room to model the railroad facilities at Silverton, but I hope to get some of the sense of the grandeur of the place in my curved corner background.  Silverton is about 45 miles due north of Durango.

17.  Mining structure…..shown here: the tipple, head frame, hoist house, and bull wheel at the top of the head frame.  I will be using my low-side gondolas to carry this ore to Denver, rather than the high side gon shown here.  If I can manage the space, there were eventually smelters located in Durango, and even in Silverton, but for operational purposes, having to ship the ore to Denver is good.

17B.  This photo shows a typical western mine entrance with timber shoring, and a track for (probably) hand-pushed mining cars. These cars usually tipped into a facility with a sloped floor that slid the ore into an open gondola.  I’ll be using one of my small Porter locomotives to move these gondolas around in the mining area.

I think I’ll model this little water wagon some where in the mining area.

18.  The helix to Denver/Farmington hidden return yard….is located under Silverton.  The one to Farmington will be located under the Durango yard.  A helix is used to take trains up or down grade without using a lot of lateral run space.  Helixes are always out of sight, because nothing like this exists in the real world of railroading.

21.  Plate Girder Deck Bridge…..A plate girder bridge is a bridge supported by two or more plate girders.  These can be placed above and to the sides of the tracks, as shown here, or under the rails and ties.  These are quite common, even today, so keep an eye out for them as you drive around.  The plate girders are typically I-beams made up from separate structural steel plates (rather than rolled as a single cross-section), which are welded or, in older bridges, bolted or riveted together to form the vertical web and horizontal flanges of the beam.  Railroads sometimes used rounded corners on the bridges or sometimes left them square.  I will have at least one bridge of this type on my layout.

23.  Snow Shed…..In mountainous areas, snow could seriously affect winter operations.  Average snowfall along some stretches of the track was just more than the rotary snow plow could handle.   There were also areas where snow slides (avalanches) could be predicted to happen every year.  In that case, wooden snow sheds were built over the tracks to keep them clear in heavy snows.

24.  The Silverton Station…..There isn’t even as much room here as there was in Durango for a station, but you can hardly have a railroad town without one.  Pictured below is the real station at Silverton.

…..and here is a compressed (model) version of it, although they didn’t use the right windows…..anyway, it’s interesting, and about all I would have room for, although I could save room by modeling a combination depot/freight house in one building.

29C.  This Engine House, or something like it, would service the mine Porter.  Here is one shown with a Porter inside.

33.  Sawmill at the Lumber Camp…..Sawmills are always interesting structures, and I figure, although most of the timber is sent to Denver, they might have a small mill here for cutting logs to dimension lumber for local use.  It also makes for another kind of load to ship from the lumber camp….flatcars with cut lumber. One item that mills provided in this area was ties for the railroads.

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